Bohol is set to be a top tourist destination in Asia with the opening of its “green gateway to the world” – the new Bohol-Panglao International Airport.
Inaugurated in November 2018 by President Rodrigo Duterte, the airport is already helping boost Bohol’s tourism industry.
Bohol Tourism Office head Josephine Cabarrus is optimistic a fresh approach to airport management and operation is a welcome strategy to make the airport at par with other international airports.
With the prospect of tourist arrivals doubling this year, Cabarrus said airport services should be elevated to international standards.
“Learning from how the Tagbilaran airport was managed, we know there are things to be improved. If you say that you have an international facility, then you should have an international-level service,” she said.
According to airport consultant ICF, Tourism in Bohol has grown at an impressive annual rate of 25.2 percent from 2011 to 2017 and 30 percent from 2016 to 2017 to reach an estimate of 1.3 million tourists. Panglao is the most popular tourist destination in Bohol and had 704,000 tourists in 2017.
The New Bohol airport will be instrumental in the development of the island’s tourism industry. Cabarrus said the new airport is poised to bring in more warm bodies from outside of the country. “We’re looking at Bohol-Panglao airport to be a game changer for the economy of not only Panglao but of the whole province,” she said.
According to Cabarrus, an offshoot of the flourishing tourism industry is increased job generation from the construction, retail, food, and transportation sectors.
“We have been trying to develop tourism areas and get the people out of Panglao and to other travel destinations in Bohol,” she said, adding this will create an economy even for small businesses which cater to both local and foreign visitors.
Cabarrus claimed the limiting runway at the old Tagbilaran airport is a factor of non-competitive airfares to and from Bohol, which hamper its full potential as a tourist destination.
“For the longest time, we have been at the mercy of very expensive airfares. For instance, a one-way trip between Manila and Bohol at peak season can be around P8,000 to P10,000. [It’s] almost the same fare [rate] to Hong Kong. We’re hoping that with the operation of the new airport, the fares could be lower due to supply and demand,” she said.
The new Bohol-Panglao International Airport, which is ten times bigger than the old Tagbilaran airport, boasts of a 2,500-meter runway that can accommodate seven aircraft at a given time and a passenger terminal that can handle around two million people annually.
With sustained growth expected, the new airport could require expansion as early as 2025.